Crises have broken out between outgoing governors and governors-elect in some of the states where opposition parties triumphed in the March 18 governorship elections.
The governors-elect are raising issues on loans, spending pattern and projects being undertaken by governors.
In Abia State, the situation is intense where Alex Otti of the Labour Party (LP) is battling Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In Kano State, Abba Yusuf of New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) is up against All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
APC governor-elect Hyacinth Alia is tackling Governor Samuel Ortom of PDP in Benue State.
But lawyers have said that the governors-elect should pull the brakes and wait till they take office.
At the centre of their muscle-flexing is the management of their state finances, contracts and sidelining in the last phase of decision making.
Ikpeazu and Ganduje asked Otti and Yusuf to stop issuing public directives as they cannot be parallel governments in their states
The two outgoing governors said they were still in charge of their respective states till May 29.
Their positions were shared by senior lawyers, who affirmed their constitutional powers to govern without interference from and to the exclusion of governors-elect.
However, in Benue State, a leaked memo allegedly issued at the weekend by Alia to the Managing Director of Benue Investment Property Company (BIPC), Alex Adum, yesterday spurred further animosity between him and Ortom.
Yesterday, the Ikpeazu-led government frowned at last week’s freezing of the state accounts in commercial banks by the Federal High Court, Abuja. It accused Otti of being behind the court case and warned him against interfering with his administration.
The government, in a statement by the Information Commissioner, Eze Chikamnayo, alleged that “more of such thoughtless, illegal moves are in the offing,” adding that those behind the account freezing were ”planning to cause civil unrest in the state.”
Chikamnayo’s statement partly reads: ”This thoughtless move by misfits ostensibly acting a mendacious script written by a cowardly cacophony of overzealous political turncoats is aimed at grounding the Government and in so doing instigate civil unrest in Abia State.
”As we all know, no arm of government has a lawful right to ground the other for any reason whatsoever.
“Moreso, a newly elected governor should know that he was elected for four years and cannot interfere in the administration of an incumbent. He must have respect for rule of law and constituted authority.
“We want to believe that those who want to lead us are not the ones behind the individuals involved in this heinous act as is now being widely speculated.
“The ongoing unintelligent and unprecedented mishap of shutting down the Government of Abia State, using a kangaroo judgment manufactured in faraway Abuja, is a clear signal of the mindset of desperados.
“The danger in this macabre dance is that if they continue this way, sooner than later, the atmosphere of peace and security carefully sustained, enjoyed and even taken for granted by some Abians, will suddenly evaporate – giving way to a new wave of killings and persecution under the Gestapo- style of an imperial impetuous leadership.
“Why is the governor-elect known to be the only one daily making open threats and still strutting to media houses to de-market the outgoing governor and government for personal reasons?
“Government wishes to warn all emissaries of destabilisation to immediately retrace their steps and allow a peaceful and seamless transition of Power come May 29th, 2023.
“The security agencies have also been alerted to ensure that governance is not frustrated and law and order is maintained. There is absolutely no need for the hurry, harassment and arm-twisting tactics now being perpetrated by elements within the Labour Party in Abia State.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the life span of the current democratically elected administration subsists till 29 May and we shall exercise all powers thereto to maintain the peace, security and stability.
But Otti’s Media Adviser, Ferdinand Ekeoma, disassociated his boss from the FHC suit against the government.
He described the statement by the commissioner as propaganda and misleading emotional blackmail of a failed government.
According to him, it is wrong for the government to falsely accuse Otti and attempt to misrepresent him in its efforts to mislead the public.
The media aide said: ”Dr Otti was not involved, directly or indirectly, in freezing the said Abia State Government accounts. He also does not know the person or persons behind the action.
“The state government should be bold enough to tell the world that those they entered into a fraudulent contract with and tried to shortchange before leaving office were responsible for the litigation.”
In Kano, Ganduje cautioned the governor-elect, Yusuf to avoid causing unnecessary confusion in the state.
“I am still the governor,” Ganduje reminded Yusuf and advised him to exercise patience and desist from issuing official pronouncements in form of a public advisory.
Yusuf, in an advisory at the weekend, asked local and international lenders, including banks to stop giving loans to the state government.
The governor-elect had in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanusi Tofa, said: “Any local or international organisation that issues a loan to the Abdullahi Umar Ganduje administration from March 18 to May 29, does so at its risk.
“Any such loan facility approved and issued to the Kano State Government between the date of election and the date of swearing-in without explicit knowledge and consent of the incoming administration will not be honoured by the new administration.”
But Ganduje said in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Internal Affairs, Muhammad Garba that “the action of the governor-elect amounts to jumping the gun by issuing a directive on a matter affecting government laid down policy while the incumbent is yet to run his full term.”
He explained that as far as the division of power was concerned, he “remains the governor with executive powers until May 29 and reserves the right to carry out his functions in the public interest even on the eve of his exit.”
Ganduje added that “until the governor-elect subscribes to the oath of office on May 29, he (Yusuf) remains what he is -a governor-elect and does not have the powers of the governor.
“All he can do is to reverse some of the actions taken by his predecessor when he assumes office, if there is a valid reason to do so.”
Alia: Ortom has sidelined me
Benue State, Governor-elect Alia lamented that he had been totally sidelined in the governance of the state by Ortom.
He alleged that since he was handed over his Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the March 18 governorship election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he had not been accorded the privileges due to him.
The governor-elect listed special accommodation, official cars and food as such rights.
He argued that in normal circumstances, the President-elect and all governors-elect do not only receive detailed briefings on power transition but are provided with security briefing reports.
Alia, a Catholic priest, raised the complaint through a statement by his Director of Communications,Kulas Tersoo.
He explained that the statement was necessitated by a leak to the media by officials of the outgoing Ortom administration.
The statement partly reads: ”Since his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the 2023 gubernatorial elections in the state, Fr. Alia has been completely ignored, neglected and treated with the utmost disdain by outgoing Governor Samuel Ortom and his machinery of government.
“The governor-elect took the decision to make the formal communication to heads of government’s parastatals and financial institutions in good faith and in the interest of the Benue public.
“Where principles of public policy are valued, the day Fr. Alia collected his Certificate of Return, he expectedly became a respected property of the state and should, accordingly, be accorded due rights and privileges as the custodian of the Benue people’s mandate.
“The state government is under obligation to provide him with special accommodation, provide official cars for him, take over his feeding and that of his staff and visitors. Has the Ortom administration shown any level of commitment in these expected norms? No!
“Moreover, where there is a mutually defined concern about the development of a state, the outgoing governor willingly ceases to make unilateral decisions on policy issues once his successor is issued a Certificate of Return. He makes policy decisions only in due consultations with the incoming governor to avoid conflicting distractions on policy and administrative issues such as the ones under discourse.
“Meanwhile, for those who think that until the governor-elect takes the oath of office, he still remains an ordinary citizen, let us permit their ignorance. They need to be educated that presently, the President-elect and all governors-elect have been receiving every detailed briefing as a process of power transition. Every security briefing given to the outgoing administration is also submitted to the heads of the incoming administration. That is the standard practice and principle of a transition process in democratic governance.
“It is rather sad that all decisions taken by Ortom’s administration presently negate every known principle of public policy. They have the stamp of utmost compromise and prejudices. Therefore, people of sound reasoning should not join hired mercenaries of mischief to mislead the unsuspecting members of the Benue public on concocted misrepresentations of due process in the power transition in Benue State.
SANs to governors-elect: wait for your turn
Two senior lawyers – Olalekan Ojo and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice-President, Dr Monday Ubani have affirmed the constitutional powers of governors to govern their states without interference from and to the exclusion of governors-elect.
Ojo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), described it as “a constitutional and political aberration” for a governor-elect to interfere in the running of a state.
“It is political exuberance. Whatever order he gives is nothing but a nullity: it is ineffective, misguided and has no legal or political force,” Ojo said.
The Silk noted that the governor-elect does not become a governor “until you are sworn in.”
Ubani, who agreed with Ojo, added that a governor-elect may feel the need to remind the government in power to be circumspect in taking certain decisions so as not to overburden the incoming government.
The former NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman said although the governor-elect cannot order a sitting governor, he can apply pressure or raise the alarm “when the sitting governor is doing something that isn’t right, that he knows the governor is doing those things to create problems for the incoming governor.
“If the purpose of what you are doing is to create problems, then, the governor-elect has to raise the alarm so that the right thing is done.”